SHERIFF ALEX VILLANUEVA PROVIDES UPDATES ON THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
On Monday, April 20, 2020, Sheriff Alex Villanueva started his weekly press briefing by offering his condolences to those that have been affected by the COVID-19 virus. He shared that his own niece is in quarantine as a result of exposure to the virus and the department has now two Custody Assistants in the ICU on ventilators. Over 600 people have now lost their lives in Los Angeles County and the Sheriff stressed the importance of physical distance, hand washing, and wearing a face covering to help during this fight.
Sheriff Villanueva expressed his gratitude to the public safety personnel, medical professionals, grocery workers, transportation professionals, and those performing jobs which are vital during this difficult time. He proceeded to share the latest crime statistics and compared to last year, violent crimes are down by 10%; homicide is down by 21%; rape is down by 29% and property crime is down by over 11%. There has been one COVID-19 related arrest and 30 citations issued since the Governor mandated the stay at home order on March 29, 2020. Sadly, domestic violence-related calls have increased. Last year during this time, there were 863 calls and this year, the number has gone up to 933. Sheriff Villanueva urged the public to call 911 if they see or hear indications of domestic violence.
Villanueva moved on to speak about COVID-19 statistics in the department. A total of 307 sworn and professional staff are on quarantine; 51 have tested positive; and 543 are back to work. A total of 1,724 inmates are quarantined; 64 are in isolation; 26 have tested positive and 7 have fully recovered and are back with the inmate population. Sheriff Villanueva noted that now two negative testes are required in order to protect employees as well as inmates.
The next topic on the agenda was budget. The Sheriff made it known that despite tragic events such as the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash and the Saugus High School shooting, the department estimates that this fiscal year, it will spend $11 million dollars less than last year in overtime. He announced that several months ago, a portion of the LASD budget was frozen and those funds are needed in order to continue operating properly and without compromising the safety of the community. He gave several examples of why the release of funds is imperative. He shared that there is a fleet of approximately 300 new patrol cars parked and collecting dust and they need to be equipped with computers and emergency equipment. The COVID-9 pandemic has resulted in an increased in expenses such as more cleaning and hygiene supplies for jails, which was not previously budgeted for. Other essential supplies that will be affected are rape kits, which are an absolute necessity to protect one of the most vulnerable of all, victims of sexual assault. The process for gathering evidence and submitting DNA to a lab requires supplies and those supplies are low so the need is critical.
Other police agencies within Los Angeles County contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to help provide services to the residents that they serve, such as testing DNA and rape kits in a laboratory, or using one of the few rescue helicopters that are operational to save lives of stranded citizens in the mountains or sea. Sheriff Villanueva shared the importance and the high cost of operating rescue helicopters which are used to save lives of hikers and nature lovers that get stranded or injured. He emphasized that access to these funds would allow the department to continue providing the basic necessary safety services for the community we serve and operational needs for the department.